Nature loves ambiguity, even if human nature doesn’t. What exactly is a species? Where exactly is that subatomic particle? When did life begin? How do genes influence behavior? Why does music move us? What does that poem mean? What color is white? Is that guy flirting with me, or not? The answers are often far more indeterminate than we’d like to think. Heck, we still don’t know why the chicken crossed the road. Or what the meaning of is is.

Bart Kosko, USC Professor of Engineering, attorney and author of best-selling books Fuzzy Thinking, Noise, and Heaven in a Chip will tell us how fuzzy math helps make things run smoothly. There is a lot more to "fuzzy math" than a put down. It involves thinking and reasoning in shades of gray--and getting computers to do so as well. Fuzz differs from randomness, chaos, and ambiguity although all four types of uncertainty interrelate. Much of intelligence involves navigating these interrelationships.

From another world(s) entirely, Doe Mayer, an official USC “remarkable woman faculty member” and holder of the Mary Pickford Chair at the Cinema school (and a joint appointment with the Annenberg School), will explain how ambiguous communication is essential for bringing critical health messages to cultures from Zimbabwe to Fiji. In her documentaries and other work in dozens of countries, Doe wrestles with such fuzzy issues as imposing values, learning to listen, measuring the effect of intercultural work.  

For an artistic perspective, Australian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Libby Lavella will talk about how ambiguities make music interesting and sometimes frustrating. Once described by the LA Times as "Pop-Soul Fusion",  a recent review said “Lavella is a delightfully uncategorizable artist,” which makes her a Categorically Not! natural.  Libby has worked with Smash Mouth, Frank Gambale, Rain Phoenix, Michael Sembello, Kate Ceberano, Big Syke, Seal, BT, Ricky Martin and Robi Rosa. 

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